An Art History College professor of mine, once told me that whenever I visit a Museum I should make a new friend and visit an old friend, she was then referring to artworks. This was her way of making me love art history in situ, she clearly succeeded at this task. She would tell me to seek a new aesthetic experience every time I walk into a museum or a “new friend,” and a go visit an “old friend,” to remind me of that sense of familiarity that is associated with a previous pleasant encounter. To feel the love for the art and to be reminded of my mindset as per our last encounter. She was leading me to understand that at every separate instance, in which I meet my "old friend", I would notice different aspects about him or her, thus I should visit on multiple occasions to truly get to know my friend, and to further solidify our friendship.
Since my professional life revolves around museums today, I have tweaked her concept a little, now I apply it directly to Museums themselves. I make new museum friends whenever possible and surround myself with the love and familiarity of my old friends whenever I can. I love exploring new museum spaces around the globe, every time I travel I make it my point to meet a new friend. But also, I find various types of comfort heading toward museums on repeat occasions to experience that which is familiar to me, that which I know, that which I already know I will enjoy. I now have multiple museum friends alike all over the world. Some friends, like the Getty, which is as close as fifteen minutes from my home, some like MOCA Shanghai which is as far as China (which is really really far for me).
As a Los Angeles local, I have the pleasure of being surrounded by amazing museums, from the two Gettys ever so fascinating, or the three MOCAs marvelous institutions at that, all of who have been a city staple for decades now. But also the recently opened Marciano Art Foundation or the ever so perplexing Underground Museum, and everything in between. Aside from the array of museums in the city, I also have pop-up experiences such as the 14th Factory or the Museum of Ice Cream, and let us not forget the hundreds of fine art galleries in town. This is a wonderful city, and I am truly blessed to be surrounded by museum friends.
The Getty Center has become an “old friend,” a close dear friend at that. Sitting at the top of the Santa Monica Mountains, the 110-acre hillside now provides the ultimate sense of familiarity for me. On average I think I'm up there two or three times a month, which is a lot of visits to a museum whose art collection you are already familiar with. But in reality, I take any excuse I can to head up there and forget about the city below.
The over 16,000 tons of travertine brought from Italy by architect Richard Meier delivers a unique sense of style and comfort. I have visited that hill on a few too many occasions, and time and time again I find myself losing track of time exploring that gorgeous campus; be it reading art books at the Getty Research Institute, aligning my chi via meditation at the 134,000 square foot garden by Robert Irwin, attending a lecture or a book release after hours, visiting the countless pavilions with artworks from around the globe, picnics with friends, taking selfies with that amazing city backdrop, or simply enjoying some tea at one of their cafeterias.
This location has become the ultimate meeting spot. When friends from out of town arrive, we head to the Getty Center because aside from the familiar comfort, the architecture and placement of the Museum have a huge wow-factor; on a clear day, one can see the downtown skyline and the Pacific Ocean. I often volunteer to take my friends up to the Getty. It is as if once I reach the top of the hill after the tram opens its doors, I am in another place entirely, as if I left the mundane nature of the city, the traffic, and everything else aside, to be happy and comforted by my friend the Getty.
It has become synonymous with that happy feeling often associated with visiting one’s grandmother. It will be happy to see you (the greeters at Getty have huge smiles on their faces, as they greet you as the tram doors open), surprises await (Getty has a new acquisitions gallery that constantly rotates to show you their latest purchases and donations), you will not be disappointed (the view, the art, the place, the magic), you will loose track of time (I have gotten courtesy reminders that they are about to close on a few too many occasions), and you will return home with a unique sense of satisfaction (maybe even a brownie).
Making museum friends is a transformative invaluable adventure that I deeply encourage everyone to seek. The Getty center has become a dear old friend for me, it's no longer just a museum, it’s a part of who I am. On a clear day, whenever I have a few extra hours, whenever I can, I make it my point to visit my dear old friend, it teaches me so much on every visit, it expands my mind in so many ways, it makes me happy and I don’t think my life would be the same without visiting all the time, my research will certainly not be the same.
This article is the first of a longer comparative feature, that will seek to learn more about museums in Los Angeles. Featured alongside the Getty Center are the Getty Villa, Moca Grand & Moca Geffen, Underground Museum and the Marciano Foundation amongst others. Stay tuned for more…